At 1.8 billion, the global youth population—made up of potential employees, suppliers, customers, brand ambassadors, and problem solvers—can act as a key driver behind sustainability efforts across industries. Yet, surprisingly, most companies are not prioritizing youth in their sustainability strategies.
Making Cents International set out to explore this contradiction by reviewing more than 50 sustainability reports of large private sector companies and talking with twelve corporate sustainability leaders at multinational companies committed to delivering shared value to all their stakeholders, including youth. Companies interviewed included Hilton Worldwide, Nestlé, and Lyft.
Making Cents’ research confirmed that companies can achieve their own sustainability objectives and improve their profits, performance, and reputation, while simultaneously impacting youth well-being in significant ways. Making Cents also identified six distinct “youth engagement models” that companies can employ to advance youth well-being priorities and contribute to global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For each of those models, Making Cents learned about specific industry and geographic examples, the roles assumed by private sector and young people, and how they align with youth well-being domains and SDGs.
The research also surfaced the challenges and opportunities of youth engagement, as well as possible solutions to advance the alignment of private sector sustainability objectives with youth well-being and the SDGs. The challenges for significantly larger investment in youth development, collaboration with youth, and strategic engagement of young people by the private sector are real and complex, but they are not insurmountable. Our recommendations for addressing them are:
Consolidate the current knowledge and best practices in youth engagement within corporate social sustainability programs, and widely share with private sector and their potential partners (youth supporting organizations, government agencies, youth development funders, etc.).
Simplify implementation of global company’s youth programs across markets through partnerships.
Quantify return on youth engagement investment.